Tuesday, April 05, 2005

His Popeness

I've watched with interest all the Pope coverage this week. If you've been in a cave this past week, Pope John Paul II died last weekend, and the world has been converging on The Vatican City in Rome to pay their respects.

I was raise Lutheran, and yet for no particular reason I have always watched with great interest the Catholic Church. I remember the first time I asked my Dad why The Apostle's Creed says "one catholic and apostolic church" (all lower case), when we're clearly not Catholic.

Well, it turns out that "catholic" means "all", at least that's what my Dad told me.

I was married once to a cultural Catholic. With 6 brothers and sisters born in 7 years, my ex's family had the appearance of being a good Catholic family, but I don't think a single one of them actually attend any church at all.

When I was an exchange student in Brazil in the mid 1980s, I had the opportunity to go to a couple of Catholic weddings and I was amazed at how Brazilians, while technically Catholic (every town has a cathedral or smaller parish in the center of town), few of them take Catholicism seriously, at least until the Pope plans a trip to their country.

As CNN reports, there are an estimated 1 billion Catholics in the world. That's roughly 1/6th of the world's population. I can't help but wonder how many of those are simply "cultural Catholics".

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that.

Ever since I went to a good Irish Catholic funeral, I decided that that was the kind of funeral I wanted. A nice big procession with the priest swinging that smoky thing. But since I'm neither Catholic nor Irish (nor do I know enough Irish people to fill a church) this might be a dream that won't go on to be a reality.

However, when I visited The Vatican on a European vacation with my husband less than two years ago, I was further intrigued by the Catholic Church. I saw St. Peter's Basilica, the Cistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museum, and can't help but have a deep respect for the Church.

That said, as a child of a Lutheran Minister, I wouldn't be here if my Dad hadn't been allowed to marry because of Church rules. As the niece of another Lutheran minister, I realize that as a woman I wouldn't be able to be a Lutheran minister like my aunt did. And as a married woman myself, I would have balked at someone telling me I couldn't use birth control to plan my family.

I wonder sometimes if the Catholic Church will ever "get with the times" on these and other issues. If there's one thing I don't like about the Church, it's that the pure and simple fact that I am missing male equipment makes me a 2nd class citizen, unable to participate fully in the Church's heirarchy.

It's for that reason and many others that I watch Catholics and the Church with great interest. I guess it's kind of like watching one of the primates in the zoo.
Now don't get all upset for me making such a comparison. I'm not calling Catholics monkeys or anything. I just think we're all different, and like all the animals of the earth, we may be tied together by evolutionary changes, but it doesn't make us all alike.

And that's ok by me.

1 comment:

Spedvet said...

Interesting premise. "Cultural" Catholics.

Hmnnn. I see what you mean if when you say "cultural", you mean the type of person who associates being Catholic by doing the things that many, if not most, Catholics do: adhering to those tenets of the faith that they can personally abide by (read: choose to go along with), when in fact they are following few, or not all of, the Church laws or directives.

But is this unique to Catholicism?

I would like to humbly submit that this type of "culturalism" is not unique to Catholics, and if anything, most "so-called" Catholics ARE unique in this fact: that they freely admit they'd like to see priests be able to marry, or agree with the death penalty, or that they actively use birth control -- UNlike folks belonging to other denominations that are quite reticent to acknowledge disagreement with their chosen affiliation, confusing their faith's seemingly broader acceptance of deviation from that faith's tenets with their church's APPROVAL of such deviation.

You don't see any other Christian denominations saying they know the I.U.D. prevents implantation of a fertilized embryo, and is thus effectively a device which causes an abortion. A Catholic may use one, but give them credit for at least acknowledging what it is!

I would like to further submit that there is no single Christian denomination out there that does not have some problems if you dig deep enough. The Pentecostals don't want women to wear pants or cut their hair; the Church of Christ folks can't play instruments and don't celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ; the Jews can't eat bacon and Baptists can't drink alcohol. So yeah, the Catholic church used to execute heretics. But then Martin Luther advocated the killing of disabled children (in addition to his wonderful discovery that to obtain God's forgiveness, one did not need an intermediary in the form of a priest).

No faith is perfect, is what I am thinking. And every faith at some time has been guilty of some kind of hypocrisy. So I just think when we're looking at monkeys, let's make sure we look at all the different types of monkey out there, and not just a select breed when we stop to acknowledge Monkey Business.



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